Touchy Subject…When Can Exercise Become Obsessive
I’m embarking on dangerous waters here…some readers may disagree with what I’m about to say. However, my views on this subject are my true beliefs. They come from personal and professional experience. I am speaking from my heart and my brain here, so you can’t be mad at me for that right? Remember, we need to agree to disagree. So, when IS exercise too much? When does it become obsessive? When does it become a problem? When does it lie on the fine line of exercise bulimia?
Here it goes…again, I’m speaking from my personal experience and from what I have witnessed through years of being a Personal Trainer. First off, exercise should be fun. It should not be dreadful. Are we always going to have a HUGE smile on our face at 5 a.m. when we drag ourselves out of bed to workout? Heck no…However, when we are finished, we should feel energetic, happy, and accomplished. Healthy competition with ourselves and each other is good for us. However, there is a fine line. Take my “interest” (or obsession) with 5k races. Though I never have thought of myself as a “true runner”, I enjoyed running as part of my cross training and as part of my fitness routine. Then something “snapped” about 7 years ago. I used to run 5k races often. For some reason though, right after my second son was born, I found this dire need to “win” the 5k races. It was some kind of a battle within myself. I’m still uncertain why, but I became truly obsessed. If I missed a day of running at the gym, I would be so angry and disappointed in myself. I started signing up for every 5k race I could find. Finally after all of my hard work, I placed first in my age group! I ran it in just over 24 minutes (i don’t even remember the time) and I won a trophy! However, whatever void I thought “winning” would fill, it didn’t. Therefore, I thought I need to work harder and to improve my time. So, there I was. On the vicious cycle of obsession and unhealthy competition within myself. NO ONE cared whether I won or got a stupid trophy. Why did it matter so much? I still cannot answer that. All I know is that I started to HATE running. I began to run everyday, faster and faster, to the point where I wanted to puke or cry. My best race, I ran in 23’10 and came in second place overall. Again, it didn’t matter. It didn’t fill the void. My hip started to hurt and my back started to hurt. I felt terrible, physically, but kept at it. Finally, after about a year of this, I realized enough was enough. I wanted to enjoy running again and I wanted to recover from my hip injury and my back pain. I was simply exhausted. I talked to my husband about my problem and, like always, he totally made me see the light and helped me through it. I decided to set a new goal. I told myself that I would NEVER do that to myself again and I haven’t. I started “jogging” for distance rather than time. I slowed down and signed up for a few 10ks, 15ks and eventually a half marathon. In 6 years, I haven’t looked at my time when crossing the finish line. People always ask at the end of my races “how did you do?”. What they are really asking is “what was your time, Miss Fitness Trainer…?” I tell them “I did great! I finished!”. I am proud to say that many of my clients have become runners and enter races with me often. I am also proud to say that most of them run right past me during the race! I always cheer them on and encourage them. However, I also preach to them often about healthy competition, versus obsession and that they need to be careful. My advice to anyone reading this….if you beat yourself up when you miss a workout, run/workout through pain of any kind and feel like all you do is think and talk about exercise, then take a step back to see if this could be a problem. We want to exercise to be healthy! Balance is what it’s all about. I workout 5 days per week. I cross train….i lift weights, run, elliptical, cycle, spin…I just put my 5k a day to rest because my ankle and back have been bothering me from pounding the treadmill. I have made a pact with myself to give up running for one month to heal. I am FINE with that. It’s nice to be doing some different forms of cardio. This is an important message….I hope you got something out of it….